March 9, 2017

The future of Australian apprenticeships: report of the stakeholder forum

The aims of the forum were to stimulate thinking and robust discussion on the future of apprenticeships in Australia and to identify the potential future activities and actions that would enable apprenticeships to continue to service industry workforce needs and contribute to national productivity and growth.

The forum was attended by over 60 key stakeholders from across the vocational education and training (VET) sector, including representation from the business community, industry peak bodies, unions, training providers, government agencies, and VET researchers.

Discussions were structured around three main themes: benefits and value; attraction; and, retention and completion. To encourage informed debate, NCVER commissioned three discussion-starter essays which were provided to participants prior to the forum. Participants considered apprenticeship reform from the perspective of industry, educators, policy makers, career professionals and unions. Their wide ranging views are captured in this summary report.

Key messages

  • The core of the apprenticeship model continues to be highly relevant in today’s modern economy. However, the system and architecture surrounding the model, including funding and regulatory arrangements, were described as complex, inconsistent and confusing. This is particularly so for national employers, despite long efforts to harmonise and streamline them.
  • There is an identified need for a continued focus on the employment relationship in training, particularly the integration of on- and off-the-job training, and the strengthening need for the tri-partite involvement and commitment of the employer, apprentice and training provider.
  • A significant opportunity and challenge exists as to how the whole of the VET sector can work together to raise the profile of apprenticeships and the reputation of vocational careers and pathways. This includes applying new thinking as to how to effectively reach and inform the key influencers for young people — parents, career professionals and classroom teachers.
  • There is a continued and growing need for in-depth and contemporary data and research analytics that will provide improved understanding of the reasons apprentices and employers are attracted, or not, to apprenticeships and why they chose to stay in or leave the system. It was recognised that there could be significant value in recommissioning the 2010 Apprentice and Trainee Destinations Survey.
  • Extending the concept of apprenticeships to higher-level qualifications, such as diploma and associate degrees, was seen as a logical progression of the model to meet the needs of the fourth wave of industrial development and to ensure we are preparing for the skilled workforce of tomorrow.
  • Investigating strategies for engaging small enterprises more holistically in the apprenticeship system, and identifying how widely the support services offered through the Australian Apprenticeship Support Network and third party intermediaries are recognised and utilised.

The future of Australian apprenticeships